An owner of a popular Indian-American grocery store in California has been charged with price gouging, marking some items up as much as 200 per cent, during the coronavirus pandemic when the entire US state is under stay-at-home orders.
Following consumer complaints filed on Thursday in Alameda County Superior Court, an investigation revealed that Rajvinder Singh, owner of the popular Apna Bazaar in California’s Pleasanton, had allegedly increased the prices of grocery items after the emergency declaration by the governor on March 4.
Based on evidence provided by customer receipts, the investigation confirmed that the pricing of several food items exceeded the 10-per cent increase allowed during a state of emergency, with some prices being as much as 200 per cent more than what was previously charged, according to a joint statement issued by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley.
The food items listed in the complaint include yellow onions, ginger, green beans, instant noodles, tea, chili peppers, pomegranates and red yams.
“We take price gouging seriously and are committed to going after those who break the law during the public health emergency,” Becerra said.
Singh faces imprisonment in the county jail for not more than a year and/or a fine of not more than USD 10,000. California law prohibits charging a price that exceeds, by more than 10 per cent, the price of an item before a state or local declaration of emergency.
“The law prevents businesses from profiteering when we are in a state of emergency. All businesses throughout Alameda County must be on notice that we will not sit idly by and allow consumers to fall prey to price gouging. My office will ensure that businesses adhere to the law and do not exploit consumers,” said O’Malley.
Singh is expected to be arraigned in court on July 9.
More than 78,000 Americans have died and 13 lakh tested positive for the coronavirus. Globally, more than 274,000 people have died and over 39 lakh have tested positive for the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University data.